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Biofuels co-op to host March 15 conference
The meeting will explore biodiesels uses in numerous rural markets, including farms, fleets, and
jim small
Jim Small fills his 100-gallon tank at Organic Valleys biodiesel pumping station in La Farge, which is open to members of the La Farge-based Bring It Home Biofuels Co-op. The cooperative is hosting a biofuels conference from 9-11:30 a.m. March 15 at the Wilton Community Center. - photo by Contributed/Bob Goonin

The recent price spike for propane, that many of us rely on to heat our homes, makes us all aware of the need to reduce our dependency on energy sources that we have no control over.

Diesel fuel is another essential form of energy in rural areas like ours. Most of our farm equipment and many of our pickups use diesel, which recently jumped to about $4 per gallon.

Bring It Home Biofuels Co-op of La Farge was formed in 2012 to provide our rural community with access to an affordable, local supply of sustainably produced biofuel.

The supplier of that high quality fuel is Sunpower Biodiesel, of Cumberland, Wis. Staff from Sunpower will be the keynote speakers at a conference that will be held  March 15 at the Wilton Community Center from 9-11:30 a.m.

After the keynote,  a panel discussion will be held on topics that matter for our community:

• On-farm usage and growing oil seed crops

• Fleet and municipal usage

• Driving clean with biodiesel

• Introduction to biodiesel

• Plenty of time for questions and answers

There will be a light lunch to follow, which should be a good time to talk further about these topics with others who have similar interests.

Growing oil seed crops to be pressed and processed into biodiesel locally represents a long term opportunity to make our farms and homesteads more energy self-reliant and to boost our local economy. Farms that are more diversified are less subject to the volatile corn and soy bean commodity markets.

Keith Ashley-Wright, who farms 100 tillable acres in the La Farge area as pasture for his 60 sheep, plus growing hay and row crops (corn, soy, barley and oats), first learned about biofuels from another young farmer in the Gays Mills area who used straight vegetable oil pressed from locally grown oil seed crops.

Ashley-Wright liked the idea, but biodiesel was a better fit for him because, “with biodiesel you just pour it into the tank, no complications.”

He especially likes having Bring It Home Biofuels to help on the sourcing side. “Having the Co-op sourcing fuel locally helps keep the price stable and competitive,” he said. “I like having a buffer from the world market and want to support the local economy. If you can grow it here, why import it?”

Last spring, Ashley-Wright was one of six area farmer members for whom Bring It Home Biofuels coordinated delivery of ASTM certified B99 at a price below the diesel market.

“It was easy. The Co-op had locked in the price before I had to make a purchase commitment. The driver made an appointment, delivered the fuel and I paid for it on the spot. No surprises! It wasn’t like driving up to a pump and finding out what you have to pay,” he said.

Ashley-Wright added that Bring It Home Biofuels relieves him of the need to research volatile fuel prices. “They figure all that for me. I can concentrate on my farm and not spend my time thinking about the fuel market. I know the Co-op is looking out for me.”

Bring It Home Biofuels also makes B99 and B20 biodiesel available to its community members at a $.05 per gallon discount at Organic Valley’s biodiesel pump site in La Farge.

Zach Biermann manages that biodiesel pump and is responsible for the use of biodiesel in Organic Valley’s truck fleet.

Asked about the benefits of biodiesel, Biermann said, “It’s a locally grown fuel, grown and produced in Wisconsin. It provides jobs in our communities all along the chain: where it is grown, manufactured and sold.”

Other positives Biermann sees is that “It provides local farmers with a place to sell their crops” and “It touches the whole community.”

Compared to diesel, biodiesel reduces emissions linked to asthma by almost 50%. With Sunpower’s help this is already happening in the Cumberland area. The Co-op wants to talk at the event about the opportunity for local schools to start using biodiesel, and welcomes participation from those  working with community school bus fleets.